From Ayatyollah Alavi-Sereshki , To His Holiness Pope Benedicxt XVI
In the Name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful
2 September 2007
To: His Holiness Pope Benedicxt XVI
Vatican City State, 00120
From: Ayatyollah Sayyid Mohammad Reza Alavi-Sereshki
Professor of Philosophy
Hawzah Elmiah Qom
Eram Street -Qum, Iran
Reference: Pope Benedict XVI's Remarks on Islam on 12 September 2006
His Holiness Pope Benedicxt XVI:
On 12 September 2006 in University of Regensburg, Germany, you said:
"There is no compulsion in religion." According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war (Qur'an 2:256).
I was disappointed on hearing such a statement from a great spiritual Catholic leader. In an attempt to show that ‘Islam is a religion that relies on violence and is an irrational faith’, the Regensburg sermon resorted to some statements credited to Emperor Manuel II by Theodore Khoury.
Emperor Manuel was faced with Ottoman invasion. It was at a time when the Ottoman had also attacked Iran, an Islamic nation. It was the Emperor’s false surmise that the attack of the Ottoman Turks or that of other Muslim kings had been at the order of the Prophet of Islam. According to Khoury, Emperor Manuel II Paleologus addressed a Persian Muslim slave as follows: “Muhammad ordered the use of swords to spread religion.” The Regensburg sermon in English says: “And there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his ‘command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The alleged Emperor’s remarks are inaccurate. The verse that orders Muslims to fight the aggressors and the verse “There is no compulsion in religion” are both in the Chapter of the Cow (Qur’an 2:256) and were revealed after Prophet Muhammad’s migration to Medina. That is when Islam had gained great strength and Prophet Mohammed had established an Islamic state. Of course, there is no doubt that the Prophet had declared to the pagan Arabs before migration to Medina that: “Unto you be your religion, and unto me my religion (Qur'an 109:6).”
After migration, the Prophet fought against those who waged wars against the Muslims. He was commanded to defend the Muslims, “And fight in the cause of God (against) those who fight you but be not aggressive; for verily God loves not the aggressors (Qur'an 2:190).” With the others, the Prophet was commanded to show kindness, “Allah does not forbid you in regard to those who did not make war against you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes, that you deal with them with kindness and justice (Qur'an 60:8).” And up to the final days of his life, God commanded him to be kind to the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab), which includes Christians, “And let the people of the Bible judge according to what God hath sent down in it; and whoever judges not by what God hath sent down; these then are the transgressors (Qur'an 5:47).”
Islam forbids forcing others into accepting the religion. The People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) were allowed to practice their faiths under the Islamic state. Accesses exist in all religions! You may look at the Crusades where the popes launched crusades against Muslims, and baptized the Muslim and Jewish masses by the force of the sword.
Jesus, peace be upon him, preached speaking the truth. I know that a great Catholic leader like you strives to follow his teachings. I hope you revisit the alleged citation of the emperor’s saying: “…that Mohammed had commanded that Islam be spread by the strength of the sword” and agree that it is a mere false accusation and inconsistent with the teachings of the Qur’an.
Rationality and Religion
Your holiness has said in your lecture that there is harmony between Christianity and reason (in the sense of Greek philosophy). Here is part of the passage of your speech:
“I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God.”
However, you have quoted the Muslim belief regarding God from Ibn Hazm who belongs to a Muslim minority and who is not accepted by the majority of Muslims as such:
“Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry.”
A study and Criticism
1) First of all, I must say that generalizing or linking Ibn Hazm’s saying to all Muslim is erroneous and incorrect because if you are talking about the religion of Islam and in order for you to substantiate your claim you should present a verse from the Qur’an or provide us with a reference from the sayings of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) who is unanimously accepted by all Muslim sects. You have no right to attribute the saying of one person who is not an Islamic Scholar to all Muslims, or the words of a minority group to Islam and all Muslims.
Ibn Hazm’s saying “God’s action is not coherent with the intellect and it could be against it” is wrong and against the teaching of the Qur’an. The Quran is what reveals the beliefs of Muslims and the Qur’an says that God is the all Knowing and the Wise: The wise is one whose entire acts are rational and according to wisdom. He never does a useless and irrational act. “And God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” As God is All Knowing and all His actions are based on the foundations of interests and deprivation and He does not do what is out of vanity and what conflicts wisdom.
2) As for your saying “I believe there is profound harmony between the Bible and what is said in Greek Philosophy in regards to God”, I must take this opportunity to draw your attention to the following issues:
Firstly, Greek philosophy is against science and reason because it considers the skies to be perpetual, intelligent, spirited. How can such a philosophy which is unable to know God and which has been criticized by contemporary philosophers also become your rational authority? We will use the example that God in the idea of Aristotle and Plato kind of cause (as is the state of effect and natural causes) and this is what is meant in that old and fixed presence cannot establish any relation with the changing events of the world. According to the law of resemblance, God cannot be the cause of many different events. If He is cause, then He must be a phenomenon by and therefore He has to be the effect of another cause.
There are many problems which the church is unable to solve. For this reason, a large number of church leaders and Christian scientists have quit Aristotelian philosophy and gone to Platonist and Illuminist philosophy. They have converted to the theory of ‘unity of existence’. It is a theory which is contradictory in itself. Because the presence of cause is different to that of the effect, and it is impossible that presence of cause is that same as the presence of the effect and more of these problems exist in Western Philosophy. This is part of the Greek philosophy which is in contrast with science and intellect whereas you are taking pride over it as being in profound harmony with the biblical faith. You are insisting on consistency between Christianity and rationality because it is congruous with Greek philosophy, whereas Greek philosophy has been rendered completely void and its principles have collapsed.
Secondly: What concerns the insistence of the Christians about trinity and that Jesus is God’s son and Mary gave birth to him. Also that Jesus was killed after the message was sent and he had become a prophet, and that he is now with the God, his father on the Throne. This belief is untrue and full of contradiction. Does God live and die and move to the Throne? Don’t you think that these statements are contradictory? If God is in the heavens, then He is not on earth? If He is on the Throne, where was He before the creation of the Throne? There are many rational problems which are unjustifiable.
Thomas Aquinas says: “God’s existence and perpetuity of soul can be proven rationally but trinity cannot be rationally proven.”
Russell writes in his book (History of Western Philosophy) in a chapter on Aquinas, “God’s existence and perpetuity of soul are rational.” (It is agreed upon unanimously by all divine religions) but what is particular to Christianity is “trinity” which even according to St. Thomas, the Philosopher is not in harmony with reason.
As for the Qur’an, it rejects frankly all these irrational beliefs and says: “Say, He is God, the One. God is the All-embracing. He neither begat, nor was begotten. Nor Has he any equal.”
If you are ‘Catholic leaders’, you could make the principles of Christianity beliefs consistent with science and intellect, and then some of the churchmen would not have gone to say that faith and reason are separated from each other. People would not distance themselves from you and they would not suffer weakness in their beliefs!
As for Islam, as we mentioned earlier, there is no contrast between the essential beliefs of Islam and rationality and modern science. Islam’s entire essential foundations are consistent with rationality. As the Qur’an consistently recommends contemplation and abiding by the rules of wisdom. The principles of religion are not imitational. It is undesirable to imitate anyone in one’s faith. It is not acceptable unless it has rational proof. It is said in chapter of the Sovereignty  of the Holy Quran that the people of hell on Judgment Day say: “And they will say, ‘Had we listened or applied reason, we would not have been among the inmates of the blaze.”
As though the letter you wish to in this verse is that if you want to enter paradise, you must seek wisdom, and the Qur’an encourages following wisdom because there is no contrast or inconsistency between Islam’s basic doctrines and the wisdom and it based on the necessary rationale.
A Few Friendly Words to Pope Benedict XVI
Your Holiness Pope Benedict XVI! You know better than me that the Church’s opposition to science (like burning scientists to death) in the late middle centuries and early modern centuries inflicted a fatal blow on Christianity and religion. Religious superstitions like trinity and the belief that Jesus is the son of God created the gap between faith and rationality. Furthermore, the emergence of scientific Philosophers such as Hume and Kant and others whom claimed that God’s existence cannot be proven rationally further added to the gap. The Church’s inability to answer the doubts raised by Western intellectuals’ weakened and demolished public faith.
Is it not better that with these situations which came down onto the West and its universities regarding the weakness of faith, that instead of aiming accusations on Islam and Muhammad, the Prophet of God and creating tension and animosity between the two greatest divine religions in the world (Islam and Christianity), you should try to prevent further weaknesses that have befallen on the churches and reply to these critiques so that the European families will not destruct in regards to increase weakness and which in turn increases the number of suicides and crimes?
There is much for me to say, but this letter does not and cannot incorporate all my words. There are questions which require answers and there is no way for them to be made clear and known except through a Television dialogue. It is my duty and obligation as a Muslim to discuss with you these misconceptions and so I therefore invite you to a Television dialogue in order to clarify all the issues you might need to be explained. Hopefully, this will bring these two divine religions closer to each other.